"Wherever they spew their spontaneous insanity, they do so comfortably in the knowledge that everything around them works. Sam's laid-back noir voice narrates proceedings with a smooth, practised hands while Max overwrites sense with deranged threats and suggestions. Trying to share an innocent anecdote about the pair's adventures starts our furry chum off on a tale of bludgeoning purse-snatchers with broken parking meters while screaming "DIE! Why won't you die?!," with a nodding Sam looking on approvingly."
Episodic gaming has proved a boon to fledgling developers, but no one has grabbed hold of the idea moreso, nor wielded such high-end results, than Telltale Games have. It's the episodic nature of Sam & Max: Episode 2 - Situation: Comedy that holds its biggest strength and biggest flaw.
Happily, the pros far outweigh the cons, which we'll run through for the sake of completion.
Situation: Comedy plonks your right back in the shoes of everyone's favourite sleuthing dog-tective [apologies: I needed to use up the last of this year's pun allowance] and shark-toothed deranged rabbity-thing. It also places you right back in their unchanged office, where clicking on the unchanged items within will offer up unchanged gags lifted right from Culture Shock. Everything from the duo's home street suffers from much the same; former psychotherapist Sibyl's profession may have changed, but many of the dialogue prompts strewn around her office have not. Likewise, although paranoid shopkeeper Brosco may adopted a fake English accent and a monocle to keep hidden from the millions who plot against him, his [in]convince store has been lifted exactly from the previous chapter -- items, comments and retorts included.
It's with a real sense of 'been there, done that', that the initial stages of Situation: Comedy are undertaken. A few recycled gags, a replaying of a slightly altered car chase first seen in the Culture Shock prequel and a gamer faithful to the previous episode might start to worry that they're playing the same game over with a slightly differing set of tasks to undertake.
That is, until they find their way into the TV studio where the bulk of this chapter takes place. Charged with rescuing a literally captive audience from the grips of chat show darling, Myra, Sam & Max have to work their way through a slew of prime-time television parodies that bring back into focus the sharp humour that's always resided within their adventures. To pry themselves onto the Myra show, headed by an opinionated host that seems to be a nightmarish hybrid all of the talk show titans doing the rounds, they'll need to prove they have the star quality needed to appear on such a prime-time slot. Try to talk your way around your lack of stardom at your peril! She has pre-planned spiels on the evils of the encroaching pop culture and the drawbacks pertaining to the ease in which fame is achieved to drown out every point you can ever hope to make.
In order to sassy onto her stage, you'll have to work besides crazed directors with strange teleportation powers, British screen-guild inspired chicken actors that feel they are working well below their station and the growth-stunted Soda Poppers from the first chapter who have reinvented themselves as a judging panel on Embarrassing Idol. Even Bessie the cow makes a cameo from Telltale's Bone series inside one of the many hopeless and cheaply-made shows that manage to draw their ratings from lonely bachelors and social dropouts. You'll need to use a combination of these programs to further your own career towards your more noble goals of audience rescue. One of the pair will also find themselves scarily comfortable inside the warm womb of manufactured celebrity -- I'll let informed readers guess which one.
Hint: It's the slightly psychotic one with bunny ears.
Wherever they spew their spontaneous insanity, they do so comfortably in the knowledge that everything around them works. Sam's laid-back noir voice narrates proceedings with a smooth, practised hands while Max overwrites sense with deranged threats and suggestions. Trying to share an innocent anecdote about the pair's adventures starts our furry chum off on a tale of bludgeoning purse-snatchers with broken parking meters while screaming "DIE! Why won't you die?!," while a nodding Sam looks on approvingly. The universe remains intact from not only the first episode, but from the 1993 hit that spawned the rebirth, Hit the Road, and if it wasn't for the unfortunate slow start, even my practised eye would have found little to complain about (well, aside from the relative ease the tasks are solved with -- a flaw Situation: Comedy has inherited from Culture Shock). Adventure gamers would be well advised to plough through the slow sections of Sam & Max's newest outing; the rewards that await beyond are well worth the wait.
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